Friday, June 11, 2021

Explaining the Starbucks Phenomenon

Julie Creswell has a great article in the Times about Starbucks. The focus is on the shortages that are plaguing the firm this spring, as stores all over the country run out of everything from peach juice to lids. This is proving downright upsetting to some people, who are used to starting their days, or taking a key break, with the exact, specially constructed beverage treat they rely on:

The problem for Starbucks is that it was never just selling a simple cup of coffee. For many, the experience of visiting the chain is a self-indulgent treat.

Customers learn the language regarding sizes and special drinks and then share their customized, 12-ingredient drink orders on social media. Many look forward to seasonal specials, like this summer’s Unicorn Cake Pop and Strawberry Funnel Cake Frappuccino, which are available for a limited time.

Orders are not barked out by number as they are at other fast-food chains but rather are announced by name, suggesting customers are friends or part of the Starbucks club, said Bryant Simon, a history professor at Temple University and author of “Everything but the Coffee: Learning About America From Starbucks.”

“Starbucks did something remarkable: taking a really ordinary product, coffee, and remaking it as an identifier of class, of culture, of discernment and of knowledge,” Mr. Simon said. “Starbucks is a way to communicate something about yourself to other people. While it has become more complicated over time, that drink still says: ‘I deserve a break in my life. I can afford to waste money on coffee.’”

This explains Starbucks to me better than anything else ever has.

I'm not really a Starbucks person myself, not being into knowing complicated in-group vocabulary and the like. From my perspective the most important thing about the Starbucks revolution has been to raise the overall quality of coffee in America. Once a year or two ago I stopped at a rural gas station on a cold, wet day and poured a cup of coffee from a pot that must have been sitting on the burner for hours. I was shocked by how bad it tasted. I had completely forgotten how vile convenience store and even much restaurant coffee used to be. It says something about our civilization that it had been years since I had drunk a really bad cup of coffee.


Kpgoog said...

Couldn't the same thing be said about bottled water? I grew up drinking from the garden hose.

pootrsox said...

Depending on where you live, the garden hose still tastes dang good... if the water is coming from your artesian well :)

I like Starbucks because unlike every other place that brags about its great coffee, they *also* have great chai. It's not the powdered fake all sugar and coloring crud that Dunkin' and the others offer (even great independent coffee shops like The Bye and Bye in Staunton VA). Since the nearest Starbucks to me is 45 minutes away, a venti chai latte is a real treat.